New York, January 3, 2002–A total of 37 journalists were killed worldwide as a direct result of their work in 2001, a sharp increase from 2000 when 24 were killed, according to CPJ research. At least 25 were murdered, almost all with impunity.
The dramatic rise is mainly due to the war in Afghanistan, where eight journalists were killed in the line of duty covering the US-led military campaign and a ninth journalist died of wounds sustained there two years ago. This was the highest death toll recorded for a single country since 1999, when 10 journalists were killed in Sierra Leone.
Most of the journalists who were killed last year, however, were not covering combat. They were murdered in reprisal for their reporting on official corruption and crime in countries such as Bangladesh, China, Thailand, and Yugoslavia.
2001 was in some ways a year of anomalies. For the first time since CPJ began keeping detailed records, a journalist was killed in China. Two journalists were killed in Thailand and one in Costa Rica, where violence against the press is rare. Meanwhile, no journalists were killed in Africa last year, although 18 had been killed in the previous two years. The number of countries where journalists were murdered more than doubled in the last two years, rising from 10 countries in 1999 to 16 countries in 2000 and up to 22 countries this year. The most dangerous beat of the past year for journalists worldwide was covering official corruption and crime.
“Journalists covering the war in Afghanistan showed extraordinary courage, but we should also remember that journalists around the world who uncovered corrupt, illegal acts, and graft at high levels of power were murdered with impunity,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “Whether the perpetrators are paramilitary groups in Colombia or corrupt officials in Thailand, the message is clear: journalists who report on illegal activities will receive a death sentence.”
In addition to the 37 cases described in this report, CPJ continues to investigate the deaths of another 18 journalists whose killings may have been related to their professional work.
Afghanistan: Dangerous Assignment
Covering armed conflicts is inherently dangerous, but CPJ research shows that most journalists who die in war zones are murdered. This was the case in Afghanistan, where the anarchy that followed the collapse of the Taliban created extremely hazardous conditions for journalists this fall. Of the eight journalists killed during the US-led attack, five died far from the front lines: four were murdered in an ambush and one during a burglary. The other three were killed in a combat situation; CPJ is still investigating the circumstances of their deaths. The eight journalists died in a 16-day period last November, the most violent period for the press in the history of the Afghanistan conflict. (CPJ research shows that in the previous 13 years, 10 journalists had been killed while reporting from Afghanistan.)
A similar pattern of murder holds for perennial conflict regions such as Colombia and the Philippines. Of the three journalists who died in Colombia, for example, one was targeted by right-wing paramilitaries, another was killed by leftist guerrillas, and the third was gunned down after reporting on the activities of a criminal gang.
Two journalists were also killed in the United States last year; one photographer died while covering the terrorist attacks on September 11 when the World Trade Center collapsed, and an editor died from anthrax inhalation in the first of several targeted attacks on the American news media.
The following list is a brief summary of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of each of the 37 journalists killed for their work last year.
Marc Brunereau, free-lancer, September 5, Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Brunereau, a free-lance reporter who spent years covering the war in Afghanistan for publications including the Belgian daily Le Soir, died in Tashkent of wounds sustained in a 1999 shelling incident in Taloqan, Afghanistan. Brunereau and others were arriving by helicopter in the northern city of Taloqan when the airfield came under Taliban fire. Brunereau suffered severe shrapnel wounds. Although he received months of medical treatment, including several operations, shrapnel that remained in his body caused continuing health problems that resulted in his death two years later.
Pierre Billaud, Radio Télévision Luxembourg, November 11, Takhar Province
Volker Handloik, free-lance reporter, November 11, Takhar Province
Johanne Sutton, Radio France Internationale, November 11, Takhar Province
Billaud, 31, a reporter for Radio Télévision Luxembourg, Handloik, 35, a free-lance reporter on assignment for the German news magazine Stern, and Sutton, 35, a reporter for Radio France Internationale, were killed when Taliban forces opened fire on the Northern Alliance armored personnel carrier they were riding on. The vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, causing several passengers to fall or jump off. The three journalists were later found shot nearby. CPJ continues to investigate competing claims about whether they were targeted or caught in cross fire.
Harry Burton, Reuters Television, November 19, Nangarhar Province
Maria Grazia Cutuli, Corriere della Sera, November 19, Nangarhar Province
Julio Fuentes, El Mundo, November 19, Nangarhar Province
Azizullah Haidari, Reuters, November 19, Nangarhar Province
Burton, an Australian cameraman for the Reuters news agency, Cutuli, 39, an Italian correspondent for the Milan-based newspaper Corriere della Sera, Fuentes, 46, a Spanish correspondent for the Madrid-based newspaper El Mundo, and Haidari, an Afghan-born photographer for the Reuters news agency, were killed in an ambush while traveling in a convoy from Jalalabad to Kabul. Gunmen dragged them out of their cars, forced them into the surrounding hills, and executed them, according to one of the drivers.
Ulf Strömberg, TV4, November 26, Taloqan
Strömberg, 42, a cameraman for the Swedish channel TV4, was shot and killed in his room during a robbery by armed gunmen at the house where he and other journalists were staying.
Fadila Nejma, Echourouk, June 14, Algiers
Adel Zerrouk, Al-Rai, June 14, Algiers
Nejma, a reporter for the Arab weekly Echourouk, and Zerrouk, a reporter with the Arab daily Al-Rai, were killed while covering mass anti-government protests organized by Berber community leaders in the capital, Algiers. Nejma died after being struck by a speeding bus during the protests. According to conflicting accounts, Zerrouk may also have been killed by the same bus, or trampled to death by a crowd of protesters at the rally.
Nahar Ali, Anirban, April 21, Khulna
Ali, a correspondent for the Khulna-based, Bengali-language daily Anirban, died of injuries sustained in an attack days earlier when masked men kidnapped him, stabbed him, and beat him severely, breaking his hands and legs, before abandoning him on the outskirts of his village, according to police. CPJ sources said that Ali was likely killed for his reporting on the activities of local criminal syndicates.
Juan Carlos Encinas, free-lancer, July 29, Catavi
Encinas, 39, a free-lance reporter for the La Paz-based channel Canal 21 in the small town of Catavi, La Paz Department, died of wounds sustained while covering a fight between two mining cooperatives that were vying for control of a limestone quarry outside the city. Armed workers from a competing mine fired the shots that wounded Encinas, who died on the way to the hospital. He was carrying a camera, a tape recorder, and credentials that identified him as a journalist.
Feng Zhaoxia, Gejie Daobao, January 15, Xi’an
Feng, a reporter for the Xi’an-based daily Gejie Daobao, was found with his throat cut in a ditch outside Xi’an. He was an investigative reporter who wrote about criminal gangs and their links to corrupt local politicians, and had received repeated death threats. His family and colleagues believe Feng was killed for his work as a journalist, but police ruled his death a suicide. Petitions to reopen the case have received no response.
Flavio Bedoya, Voz, April 27, Tumaco
Bedoya, 52, a regional correspondent for the Bogotá-based Communist Party newspaper Voz, was shot and killed by four unidentified gunmen on motorcycles. One of the weekly’s senior correspondents linked the murder to a series of highly critical reports by Bedoya about collusion between security forces and right-wing paramilitary gangs in Nariño Department. Police confirmed the killing but gave no further details.
José Duviel Vásquez Arias, La Voz de la Selva, July 6, Florencia
An unidentified gunman shot and killed Vásquez, news director of the local radio station La Voz de la Selva (The Voice of the Jungle). The murder was linked to his investigative reports on corruption scandals in which local government officials and members of the left-wing FARC guerrilla movement were implicated.
Jorge Enrique Urbano Sánchez, radio and television journalist, July 8, Buenaventura
Two unidentified attackers shot Urbano four times while he was celebrating his 55th birthday with friends in a park in the coastal city of Buenaventura. Urbano had apparently devoted his final radio broadcast to denouncing a local criminal gang called “Tumba Puertas” (Knock Down Doors). Before his murder, he had received death threats that he attributed to his public campaign to relocate street vendors and remove drug addicts from the park.
COSTA RICA: 1
Parmenio Medina Pérez, “La Patada,” July 7, San José
Medina, producer and host of the weekly radio program “La Patada” (“The Kick”), was shot and killed by unknown assailants. Medina’s 28-year-old program often denounced official corruption. Two months before his murder, Medina received death threats in connection with his on-air discussion of alleged fiscal improprieties at a local Catholic radio station. Unknown attackers also fired bullets at his house.
Georgy Sanaya, Rustavi-2, July 26, Tbilisi
Sanaya, a popular 26-year-old television journalist, was shot once in the head at close range with a 9mm weapon. Although Sanaya’s colleagues were not aware of any threats against him, they firmly believe that the murder resulted from his professional work. The murder could have been intended to intimidate the station, which is known for its investigative reporting on state corruption and misuse of power in Georgia.
Jorge Mynor Alegría Armendáriz, Radio Amatique, September 5, Puerto Barrios
Alegría, host of a call-in show called “Línea Directa,” was shot at least five times outside his home. The Ombudsman’s Office for Human Rights determined in September that the murder was politically motivated and most likely masterminded by local officials in retaliation for Alegría’s coverage of corruption in Puerto Barrios.
Brignol Lindor, Radio Echo 2000, December 3, Petit-Goâve
Lindor, news director of the private station Radio Echo 2000, was hacked to death by a machete-wielding mob. Lindor was host of the political talk show “Dialogue.” He had received numerous threats from local officials after inviting members of the 15-party opposition coalition Democratic Convergence (CD) to appear on his show.
Moolchand Yadav, free-lancer, July 30, Jhansi
Yadav, a free-lance reporter who regularly contributed to Hindi-language dailies including Jansatta and Punjab Kesari, was shot dead on the street in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh. Colleagues said that Yadav had been murdered at the behest of two powerful landowners who were angered by his exposés of local corruption.
Gundars Matiss, Kurzeme Vards, November 28, Liepaja
Matiss, a crime reporter for the Liepaja-based daily Kurzeme Vards, was attacked and severely beaten in the stairwell of his apartment. After undergoing three operations, he fell into a coma and died from a brain hemorrhage. Though the police cited robbery, personal revenge, and retaliation for his journalism as possible motives, Matiss had not been robbed, and does not seem to have been involved in any serious personal dispute. His editor told CPJ: “Matiss knew a lot about the criminal world. He was one of those reporters who went deep.” At press time, the police investigation was still ongoing.
José Luis Ortega Mata, Semanario de Ojinaga, February 19, Ojinaga
Ortega Mata, 37, editor of the weekly Semanario de Ojinaga, was shot twice in the head. Local sources linked the murder to Semanario de Ojinaga‘s reports on drug trafficking. The paper had also been critical of local politicians and police.
PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: 1
Muhammad al-Bishawi, Najah Press Office, IslamOnline.net, July 31, Nablus, West Bank
Al-Bishawi, a reporter for the Nablus-based Palestinian news service Najah Press Office and for IslamOnline, an Internet news service based in Qatar, was killed in an Israeli missile attack aimed at Hamas official Jamal Mansour, whom Israel had accused of masterminding several suicide bombings. At the time of the attack, several sources said, al-Bishawi was interviewing Mansour at the Palestinian Center for Studies and Media, a Hamas information office.
Salvador Medina Vel·zquez, FM Ñemity, January 5, Capiibary
Medina, 27, president of the board of the community radio station FM Ñemity, was shot dead in an ambush. The attack apparently resulted from his reports on timber smuggling in state-owned forest reservations in Capiibary, local sources told CPJ. In particular, Medina had singled out a band of alleged smugglers with ties to the National Republican Association (ARN), also known as the Colorado Party. Although a suspect was tried and convicted, Medina’s relatives believe that the people who ordered the murder are still at large.
Roland Ureta, Radio DYKR, January 3, Aklan Province
Ureta, program director of the radio station DYKR, was gunned down by two motorcycle-riding men. Ureta was apparently murdered as a result of his radio commentaries, which included pieces about local government corruption and police involvement in the drug trade.
Candelario Cayona, Radio DXLL, May 30, Zamboanga City
Three unidentified men ambushed Cayona, a radio commentator for the local station DXLL, as he left home on his motorcycle to host a morning broadcast. Cayona was an outspoken commentator who often criticized local politicians, the military, and Muslim separatist guerrillas. The journalist had recently received several death threats, including an on-air threat that was phoned in by Abu Sabaya, spokesman for the Islamic guerrilla group Abu Sayyaf.
Eduard Markevich, Novy Reft, September 18, Reftinsky, Sverdlovsk Region
Markevich, editor and publisher of Novy Reft, a paper that was often critical of local officials, was found dead with a bullet wound in his back. The journalist’s colleagues told the Itar-Tass news service that he had received threatening telephone calls prior to the attack. He was also attacked in 1998.
Withayut Sangsopit, free-lancer, April 10, Surat Thani
Withayut, a radio journalist and commentator, was shot five times by gunmen as he was about to enter his radio studio to begin his popular morning program, “Catch Up With the World.” Surat Thani police believe Withayut, 56, was killed as a result of his reporting on irregularities involving a 50 million baht (US$1.1 million) real estate deal for a municipal garbage dump. Police arrested two men in connection with the shooting, one of whom was a municipal official implicated in the garbage dump scandal.
Kaset Puengpak, Thai Rath, May 2, Viset Chaichan
Kaset, a stringer for the Thai-language newspaper Thai Rath, was shot dead in Viset Chaichan District, Ang Thong Province. Kaset was known for his reporting on local drug gangs linked to powerful politicians and police officers, according to Thai Rath and several Thai journalists. The Thai Journalists Association issued a statement saying that Kaset was likely murdered for his journalistic work. After the killing, police interrogated a police corporal who had quarreled with Kaset over law enforcement issues in the area. No arrests have been reported in the case.
Igor Aleksandrov, Tor, July 3, Slavyansk
Aleksandrov, 45, director of the independent television company Tor, died from injuries suffered when unknown attackers beat him with clubs as he entered his offices. Aleksandrov’s colleagues believe the murder was connected to his television program, “Bez Retushi” (“Without Censorship”), which featured investigative coverage of government corruption and organized crime. The program frequently criticized Slavyansk municipal authorities.
UNITED KINGDOM: 1
Martin O’Hagan, Sunday World, September 28, Lurgan
O’Hagan, 51, was shot several times from a passing car while walking home from a pub with his wife, who was not hurt in the attack. O’Hagan was an Irish Catholic journalist, known for his reporting on the criminal activities of Protestant and Catholic paramilitary groups. Suspects in the attack include the Loyalist Volunteer Force, about which O’Hagan had written recently, and the Red Hand Defenders, which claimed responsibility for the slaying in a phone call to the BBC.
UNITED STATES: 2
William Biggart, free-lancer, September 11, New York City
Biggart, an American free-lance news photographer, was killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The journalist’s body was found on September 15 in the rubble at Ground Zero near the bodies of several firefighters. Biggart had rushed to the scene with his camera shortly after hearing about the attacks.
Robert Stevens, The Sun, October 5, Boca Raton
Stevens, 63, a photo editor at the tabloid newspaper The Sun, died of anthrax inhalation in Boca Raton, Florida. Authorities opened a criminal investigation into the killing but have not determined where the anthrax came from. However, officials did confirm that the type of anthrax that killed Stevens is the same strain that was mailed to NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw.
Kerem Lawton, Associated Press Television News, March 29, Kosovo
Lawton, 30, a British national and producer for Associated Press Television News, died from shrapnel wounds sustained when an artillery shell struck his car. Both Macedonian military officials and ethnic Albanian insurgents denied responsibility for Lawton’s death.
Milan Pantic, Vecernje Novosti, June 11, Jagodina
Pantic, a reporter for the Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti, was killed as he was entering his apartment building. The 47-year-old journalist worked as the Vecernje Novosti correspondent for the Pomoravlje region of central Serbia. He reported extensively on criminal affairs, including corruption in local companies. His wife, Zivka Pantic, told Vecernje Novosti that Pantic had received numerous telephone threats in response to articles he had written.
Documenting the Deaths
CPJ researchers apply stringent guidelines and journalistic standards to determine whether journalists were killed on assignment or as a direct result of their professional work. By publicizing and protesting these killings, CPJ works to help change the conditions that foster violence against journalists. The death toll that CPJ compiles each year is one of the most widely cited measures of press freedom in the world.